CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Councillor who became an MP is trolled for taking maternity leave

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq speaks in defence of Siobhan Baillie

31 May, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Siobhan Baillie during her Town Hall days

A FORMER councillor who left Camden and became an MP has been trolled after deciding to take four weeks of maternity leave following the birth of her daughter.

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq said that she stood in solidarity on the issue with Siobhan Baillie, the former Conservative councillor who now represents Stroud, Gloucestershire, in the House of Commons.

Ms Baillie and her team were subjected to abusive emails and social media messages after announcing her family’s new arrival and the minimum time she would take to spend with the baby and to recover.

One constituent described the maternity leave as a ‘dereliction of duty’ during ongoing coronavirus emergency.

Ms Siddiq has spoken several times about how MPs who give birth feel pressured to return to work almost immediately, and was herself answering constituency emails from her bed at the Royal Free after daughter Azalea was delivered by an emergency Caesarean.

“I was getting emails saying, “Why didn’t you turn up for this vote?” even during the six weeks that I had taken off following my emergency C-section,” she later told the House of Commons.

She went onto campaign for the introduction of remote voting for MPs who are new parents or ill at home, a campaign which ironically was rejected for those reasons but allowed during the coronavirus crisis.

Ms Siddiq, a mother-of-two, said: “Siobhan and I may be from different political parties but I’ve always found her to be polite and friendly. I was extremely upset but not entirely surprised to see that she had received abuse for taking time off to look after her baby and to recover from giving birth. I received similar such messages both times after I had my children,”

She added: “Being an MP and being a mother shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. We need to drag parliament and people’s attitudes into the 21st century.”

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq

Ms Baillie’s stint on Camden Council did not overlap with Ms Siddiq: in 2014, she won a seat in the Tory stronghold of Frognal and Fitzjohn’s after Laura Trott’s decision to step down from the Town Hall. Ms Trott has also gone on to be elected as an MP.

Ms Siddiq herself stood down from her role as a councillor in Regent’s Park that year to concentrate on her successful parliamentary campaign across Hampstead and Kilburn.

Friends back in Camden often suggested privately that Ms Baillie found her path blocked when she attempted to climb the ranks of the Conservative Party in London, with insiders suggesting she found herself in the middle of personality clashes and internal rivalry.

But some who remained close to her travelled to Gloucestershire to help her campaign ahead of the general election in December, and they showered her with well-wisher messages last week after her new arrival.

Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie with her new daughter

Ms Baillie said last week: “We are bowled over by love for our daughter.  I can’t stop staring at her and I’m chuffed to bits to be a new mum. We want to thank the amazing Stroud Maternity and Gloucestershire Royal teams. They were the perfect people to support us through the birth and at this special time.’

Her office said in a statement: “Whilst the majority of constituents have been extremely supportive of Siobhan, unfortunately we have a number of abusive emails and tweets aimed at Siobhan’s maternity leave.  Our staff have also received abusive messages and phone calls this week.

“We have a zero tolerance policy on abuse towards Siobhan and staff. And we will have no problem reporting individuals to the police.”

It added: “We ask that individuals consider their actions, as all of our staff are humans, and this week they have worked exceptionally hard to get through the thousands of emails that we have received.”

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